A Texas judge on Tuesday denied a request from former Governor Rick Perry to throw out felony abuse of power charges filed against the Republican politician seen as a potential candidate for the party in the 2016 presidential race.
The decision by Judge Bert Richardson will likely mean that the criminal case continues for several months as Perry travels the nation trying to build support for a presidential run.
Perry’s legal team argued the charges were unjust because they attacked powers given to the governor under the state’s constitution and that procedures were improperly followed in bringing the case to court.
Local media reports said that Perry has spent about $1 million in campaign funds for his legal fight.
Perry was indicted in August by a grand jury in Travis County, a Democratic stronghold in the heavily Republican state, with abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony, and coercion of a public official, a third-degree felony.
If convicted of first-degree felony, he could face from five to 99 years in prison.
A probe was launched in 2013 after Perry vetoed $7.5 million in funding for an integrity unit in the Travis County District Attorney’s office. The move was seen as hardball politics to force out county District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, after she pleaded guilty to drunken driving.
Perry, who stepped down this month as governor after 14 years in office, has been trying to portray himself as the victim of a partisan political prosecution, a move analysts said could gain him some traction with Republican primary voters.
But the prospects of a prolonged trial could hurt him in the battle to win support from deep-pocketed political donors who see the court case clouding a presidential run, analysts said.
Perry dropped out of a gaffe-filled campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination but has been attempting a political comeback.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Walsh)